If Stephen Boyd hadn’t been so anxious to get on with his move career, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor might never have met. Boyd was the first choice to play Mark Antony in “Cleopatra,” but when Liz’ illness postponed filming for six months, the ruggedly handsome Irishman signed to do another picture.
“I’m not sorry about missing THAT experience,” he said.
Born in Belfast on July 4, 1928, the youngest of nine children, his real name is Billy Miller. He was 8 when he decided to become an actor, and at 16 he began his career with the Ulster Theatre Group. Two years later he went to Canada, where he played in summer stock and radio. In 1950 he came to the United States and tours in “Streetcar Named Desire” and other plays.
He returned to Europe, where his career hit a bleak period, and it took him five years to win his way to a movie contract. His first major screen role was in “The Man Who Never Was.” He also appeared in “Island in the Sun” and “The Best of Everything” before getting his first big break, the role of Messala in “Ben Hur.” His latest role was opposite Doris Day in “Jumbo.”
Boyd married Mariella de Graziani, an Italian talent agency executive, in August, 1958. The marriage lasted 23 days, and they were divorced the following March.
SUNDAY NEWS, MAY 5, 1963
Blogger’s note: this article misspelled Mariella’s name – it’s di Sarzana. Also, this is a common mistake where Boyd’s birth date is incorrectly given as 1928, not 1931.
I just came across this as well recently. This is 25 minute overview of Stephen Boyd’s career from the early 90’s available on Amazon Video. It is mostly a series of movie trailers, but there are some very short candid shots of Stephen at “The Oscar” premiere in 1966 with Marilyn Hanold, and also behind the scenes of “Genghis Khan.”
As far as I know there have been two televised biopic’s about Stephen Boyd. The first one aired when Stephen was still alive in 1971. This was called “Stephen Boyd Portrait”, and featured interviews and film clips about Stephen and his career. “Ralph Nelson talks to Stephen Boyd about his acting career. Guest appearances are made by Elke Sommer, Tony Bennett, Ernest Borgnine, Camilla Sparv, Broderick Crawford and director William Wyler. Extracts inc. The Night Heaven Fell, Assignment K.”(The Age, Melbourne Australia, February 4, 1971)
This is another long lost item – but if anyone happens to have a copy, of course, please let me know! I would love to see this- it sounds awesome.
The second biopic aired in 2011 called “Stephen Boyd: The Man Who Never Was”. It aired only in the UK, but luckily it has been posted on Daily Motion to view. Despite the somewhat irritating title, this is a good biopic. However, I regret to say, it contains very little as far as Stephen Boyd interviews. You see a few snippets here and there (Which I compiled for You Tube and they last 2 minutes). You would think if you had rare interviews to share, you could just play the full interview! It also leaves out quite a bit of Stephen’s actual story and life. It focuses mostly on portraying Stephen as the good Irish son – but it neglects to mention even his first wife, Marisa Mell, Brigitte Bardot, Stephen’s worldly travels and even his interest in Scientology. We are left with a very limited look at the man himself. Nevertheless, it is a Stephen Boyd Biopic, so I shouldn’t complain. There are also some interesting stories told by his family and other actors about Stephen and Liz Mills, his last wife. See for yourselves!
For being a person that valued his individuality, it does seem odd that Stephen Boyd would become so fascinated with a dogmatic, controlling religion like Scientology. But Stephen had been interested in religion since his youth. He had even considered studying theology and becoming a minister when he was growing up in Belfast.
“I was sure hard to convince,” says Steve. At the Scottish Presbyterian church he even argued with the Reverend Nicholson about his sermons. “It amazed me.” states Steve, “that a man could read a text from the Bible and then have the nerve to tell others what it meant. Why, it means some- thing different to everyone who reads it!” He’d tell the good man this and they’d have word battles after church, to the preacher’s delight. But later, when Billy Millar briefly thought he’d like to study theology and be a minister himself, Reverend Nicholson shook his head.
“I know your mind, Billy,” he counseled. “And you won’t do for organized religion. You’d never accept it.” (Modern Screen 1960)
His intense conversations with Dolores Hart during the filming of Lisa in 1961 also revolved around religion and spirituality. “I found him deeply spiritual. We had many discussions about religion, in a general way, but occasionally we spoke of Catholicism. Stephen was adamant that although he was genuinely interested in the broad spectrum of religion, he was not attracted to any specific church. He would come to change that stand.” (The Ear of the Heart by Dolores Hart)
From an interview in 1966, Boyd expressed his interest in “esoteric” religion.
“I am deeply interested in the esoteric form of all religions….Basically it is the development of the inner you. I’m not a member of any church. I don’t subscribe to any one belief except the one true belief. I believe IN GOOD.”
Around 1966 is when Boyd began his interest inL Ron Hubbard‘s Church of Scientology, which would make him one of the first Hollywood stars to follow this religion. Boyd had always expressed an interest in esoteric religions. Dolores Hart expressed her alarm in Stephen’s Scientology interests when he paid her Abbey a visit in 1966. “Remembering his distaste for organized religion, I cautioned him to think twice before getting too involved.” (From TheEaroftheHeart) Apparently Boyd’s interest intensified during a stay in New York City in 1968 where he was given his first ‘auditing session’ by a Scientology group. From a Scientology newsletter, Boyd had this to say:
“The first reaction at the ORG offices was rather strange. Here were a bunch of people sitting, talking, walking about busily…and everywhere in that place, people were talking about thing being ‘beautiful.’ Anyway, we signed up for processing to being the following day. And again, while we were there, everything was ‘beautiful’. What the hell is this ‘beautiful’?” In an interview in August 1969 with the Detroit Free Press, he said that Scientology helped him through the filming ofSlaves, and that it is “a process used to make you capable of learning. Scientology is nothing. It means only what you want it to. It is not a church you go to to pray, but a church that you go to to learn. It is no good unless you apply it. It is the application”.Boyd apparently had been elevated to a Scientology Status of OC 6, a position beneath that ofClear.
Part of the religions appeal to Boyd may have been it’s mysticism. “Those attracted to Scientology often have an interest in the occult – “the powers of the mind” religions…What Scientology is basically saying is, ‘If you clear your mind of problems, you’d be happy.” (Los Angeles Times, August 3, 1969)
Author Gary Valentine Lachman has an even better description from his booked Turn off Your Mind; The Mystic Sixties and the Dark Side of the Age of Aquarius.
“He (Hubbard) had set off into a terrain that offered endless variations and appeal: the mysteries of the human mind…The aim of Scientology is to awaken its practitioners to their real selves, to regain their true Thetan heritage, and become, more or less, supermen.” Boyd would actually go on to star and narrate a Scientology recruiting film called Freedomin 1970.A copy of this film can be found at the Library of Congress, but it is not available online via any Scientology resource,which may indicate a falling out Boyd had with the Church later on for using his name for recruiting purposes.
Dolores Hart again mentioned in her memoirs some of her last communication with Boyd concerning Scientology. “(In 1970) he announced his plans to become an active member of the organization (Church of Scientology) and said that his life and mine could never find a crossing point, which saddened me.”This sounds exactly like what happens when Scientologists are called to disconnect from people who are opposed to their beliefs. Is this what happened between Boyd and Hart?
It’s hard to track Boyd’s connection to the Church of Scientology past 1970. Did he have a falling out with the Church? Did he continue to be a member? And why was he attracted to the complexities of this dogmatic, cult religion to begin with? It’s impossible to say. It’s just an intriging mystery about Stephen Boyd which we will never solve.